Top 10 Sports Road Trip Destinations in the Pacific Northwest
"Road trippin', road trippin', we're not happy unless we're road trippin'."
The above should be the official anthem for any adventurous sports fanatic.
Yeah, spectating at games locally is a delight, but there's a whole nation out there, filled with wildly entertaining and historically significant venues that dot the landscape from coast to coast and everywhere in-between.
So, get out there and find them. But before departure, use the following as your guide.
There are any number of great sports road trip destinations that await you, but we had to draw the line somewhere.
For us, 100 seemed like a nice, round number, including 10 apiece from 10 distinct regions around the U.S.
We begin with the Pacific Northwest Region, where you'll find, among others, a Rose Garden, red turf, a pair of killer mountains, and the newest Phil Knight-funded toy at Oregon.
10. Rogers Arena
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No dash through the upper reaches of the Pacific Northwest and into British Columbia would be complete without a stop at Rogers Arena, the city of Vancouver’s foremost sports and entertainment facility, as well as a fixture among the many downtown activities.
The Canucks play 41 games per season here. Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth, and the Dalai Lama are among the distinguished notables to have passed through the Rogers Arena doors. And from what I've read, the place has got a killer set of speakers, which will come in handy when Rush, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban, among others, roll into town this summer.
9. McCarthey Athletic Center
McCarthey Athletic Center (Photo courtesy of SWX Online)
Compact, inconspicuous for a basketball arena, and, frankly, more befitting of a modern library, McCarthey Athletic Center is still worth every penny of its $25 million tag.
Since it was erected during the 2004-05 season, the Gonzaga hoops program has been nearly invincible at home, losing only six times at McCarthey in the last seven years while also emerging as a national power. And two of those losses have come in the past 90 days.
8. Roos Field
Roos Field (Photo: Eastern Washington University)
I can’t speak much for the Eastern Washington football program, except to say it posted 13 wins in 2010, its first season playing on the recently installed red turf at Roos Field.
Maybe there’s something to this whole non-green playing surface phenomenon. First, it was Boise State, a program that was synonymous only with its blue rug prior to all the winning.
At first glance, the red is a bit rough on the retina, but that’s part of the strategy being played out nowadays at The Roos, named after former Eagle and current Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Michael Roos, who funded a portion of the project. Eagle players often wear all-red uniforms to blend in with the field, thus thoroughly confusing opponents.
7. Rose Garden
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The Rose Garden is the lifeblood of the Portland sports scene. For that matter, it may also be the city’s ultimate entertainment venue.
Home to the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers, as well as the stage to numerous high-profile musical acts and various other events, the Rose Garden looks on the outside to be just like any other normal multipurpose arena. But that changes once you hear (not see) what’s inside, where a state-of-the-art JBL sound system is but one component that makes this building an audio lover’s dream.
Attached to the rafters at the Rose Garden are 160 dual-sided panels known collectively as the “acoustical cloud.” Each fully programmable to fit the event at hand, the panels have been praised for creating the best acoustics in the world, both during concerts and games, when sound rises and is reflected directly back down to the court.
6. Whistler Blackcomb Resort
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Well worth the five-hour drive from Seattle, Vancouver’s Whistler Blackcomb Resort is a snow-covered utopia that caters to all visitors, not just Olympians. More than 65,000 skiers are lifted up its two world-class slopes each hour, but Whistler Blackbomb, which also boasts 404 inches of snowfall per year, offers so much more across its 8,171 acres.
Take the whole family to the Coca-Cola Tube Park. Enjoy hot chocolate as you breathe in the Canadian landscape during an authentic sleigh ride. Enjoy a meal at one of the resorts four restaurants while the kids go on a snowmobile tour or take in skiing or snowboarding lessons. Just stay away from the double black diamond run, unless, for some reason, you want to get air-lifted back to Seattle.
5. Safeco Field
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The simple push of a button will allow the retractable roof at Seattle’s Safeco Field to do its job, but don’t expect it completely enclose the stadium. Whereas the roofs on most other retractable stadiums transition the actual venue between open and closed, the lid on Safeco is designed to never compromise the open-air environment and simply umbrellas Mariners fans and the playing field from the rainy Emerald City weather.
Unique, indeed, but not entirely. Japan’s Seibu Dome, which features a fixed roof, is the only other covered baseball stadium in the world outfitted with permanent openings.
4. Matthew Knight Arena
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The University of Oregon’s new basketball arena has drawn criticism at the state and local levels, for various reasons, but only good things happen when the magic wand is waved by Nike founder Phil Knight, who has basically pulled several of his alma mater's athletics programs out of the doldrums with hundreds of millions worth of donations over recent years.
Named in honor of Knight’s late son, the project, completed in January 2011 at more than $200 million, will rejuvenate a moribund Ducks program, perhaps drawing quality recruits on looks alone. The work of Nike vice president of design Tinker Hatfield, the court design looks more like a Rorshach test, but it’s supposed to resemble the view from underneath a bunch of fir trees. Or something like that.
3. Qwest Field
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A vision come to life from Seattle Seahawks owner — and Microsoft co-founder — Paul Allen, Qwest Field is where audibles and snap counts go to die. There’s a flag stitched with the number 12 adorning the south end of the stadium, in homage of the tremendous home field advantage generated by what is arguably the loudest fan base in the NFL.
So well does the noise reverberate off Qwest’s partial, curved roof, that the New York Giants were flagged for 11 false start penalties in a game in 2005. And in anticipation of their NFC Championship matchup at Seattle that same season, the Carolina Panthers practiced to the tune of jet engine noises to simulate the noisy hell that awaited.
2. Husky Stadium
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An aging theater to both Washington football and some of the state’s most beautiful topographical wonders, Husky Stadium in Seattle is equal parts historic and scenic, both of which are drowned out by the sound of shattered ear drums.
In a game against Nebraska in 1992, a capacity crowd of nearly 73,000 reportedly produced the highest noise level in college football history, sending 135 decibels past the threshold of pain, across nearby Lake Washington, and reverberating against the Cascade Mountains.
But a good thing is about to get better, or at least modernized. Beginning in 2011, Husky Stadium will undergo a $250 million facelift, supposedly the most expensive renovation of a sports facility in NCAA history.
1. Autzen Stadium
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As funky in its design as it is nightmarish for opposing offensive huddles, Autzen is the crown jewel of Pac-12 football abodes and top road trip destination of the Pacific Northwest.
Constructed in 1967, the home of the Ducks has been renovated several times over, but the tweaking has proven incapable of keeping up with the demand driven by Oregon’s recent emergence as a national gridiron power.
Unless your elbow rubs up against that of super donor Phil Knight, secure your tickets well in advance. Since Autzen’s most recent expansion in 2002, the Ducks have drawn an average of more than 59,000, exceeding official capacity by more than 5,000.